From Forbes Blogs:
If you ask a non-“gamer” to name a few places where some of the world’s most compelling contemporary architecture can be found, you’re likely to get answers like Beijing, Dubai, Shanghai, and Tokyo. But ask a gamer, and the answer may well be the name of a server that hosts his or her favorite massively multiplayer online game (MMOG).
There is a veritable architectural boom occurring in the online gaming world, with millions of people engaged, both individually and collectively, in creating an endless variety of virtual buildings. And architectural designs represent only one of the many forms of user-contributed intellectual property (IP) that are redefining how people interact in online games.
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Who owns all of this IP? And how can those ownership rights be protected? Such questions are not merely academic. According to online games research firm SuperData, the global virtual goods market approached $15 billion in 2012 and is expected to exceed $20 billion in 2014. The virtual economy is thriving, and as in any thriving economy there are opportunities for enterprising people to identify new goods and services that have value to the community.
Intellectual property, which consists of copyright, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets, has always been an important aspect of games. Traditionally, however, it was the companies making the games that generally held the associated IP.
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Modern descendents of Pong – including many of the offline games played on console platforms like the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo 3DS – are leaps and bounds more sophisticated. But much of the IP for these games still resides with the game manufacturers as opposed to the players.
By contrast, in multiplayer online gaming environments that allow players to create complex virtual worlds, opportunities for both game designers andplayers to generate IP abound. In fact, in many of these games the lines between designers and players are blurred.
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Thus, in multiplayer Minecraft there are multiple levels at which intellectual property is being created and used: Mojang, the company that sells Minecraft, provides IP in the form of the underlying game itself. A Minecraft server owner adds IP by designing a specific type of virtual world, and the players within that virtual world then create their own IP as they develop its infrastructure and economy through their own in-game interactions. And in yet another layer of IP complexity, server owners often incorporate software provided by third-party developers, and in some cases also hire people to write code to add customized features to the server.
Link to the rest at Forbes Blogs